Alana Nickles finished high school with a diploma and a certified nursing assistant certificate.
Jamicah Moore left with audio/visual skills that put him ahead of the game as a film major at Savannah College of Art and Design.
Both of them started training for their future professions while still in high school through Career, Technical and Agricultural Education pathways offered by their district. Students can gain knowledge, hands-on experience, trade certification and sometimes college credit by completing career pathways.
Pathways, which typically consist of three courses, range from unmanned systems, industrial maintenance and finance to culinary arts and cosmetology. Many courses are offered in partnership with area colleges or businesses.
Representatives said their districts choose pathways based on industry needs and job demand in the area. The Georgia Department of Education has developed course standards for a number of CTAE pathways. School systems want to make sure students will be productive residents after graduation, whether they're college, military or career bound, said Cassandra Washington, Bibb County's CTAE director and CEO of Hutchings College and Career Academy.
"We work with external stakeholders to see what in the surrounding areas will provide job opportunities for the area," Washington said. "The school district should be the pipeline for how kids are coming out college and career ready."
Even if students decide not to pursue a career in the pathway they study, the pathways give them a foundation of job skills, soft skills and life skills that can apply to any setting once they leave high school, said Natalie Stowe, CTAE director for the Baldwin County district.
Here are five in-demand career fields that high school students in our area can be training in.
As the film industry has grown in Georgia, so has the audio, visual and film pathway at Hutchings College and Career Academy, Washington said. Sixty students are participating this year, compared to about 25 in the past.
They earn basic skills certifications that would allow them to take on entry-level positions. They "learn the full gamut of the industry," including editing, producing, operating cameras, writing scripts, staging and sound work. Students get experience in front of a green screen and produce video segments for the district's TV station. A student-run online radio station should be up and running by mid-March.
Students in Monroe County's pathway shoot sports games and news segments, said Sandy Colwell, Monroe County's CTAE director. Putnam County has a similar pathway, and Houston County plans to add one in the future.
Moore, a 2017 Rutland High School graduate, grew up making short films with his two brothers and got more hands-on experience through Hutchings' film pathway. He said the courses reinforced his knowledge and established a good foundation for his studies at SCAD, where he's now a freshman.
"You could learn so many things that you wouldn't normally learn in a high school setting," Moore said. "I think it's just a great environment to learn and create. I was really glad that (Hutchings) was there for me."
2. Health care
Many area districts offer health science pathways, and students who complete them and pass certification exams can go right to work if they choose. Pathway focuses include nursing, sports medicine, exercise physiology and emergency medical responder.
Last year, 100 percent of students in Hutchings' nursing pathway passed the CNA exam, Washington said. Several students have gone to work while still in high school. After graduation, many of them major in nursing in college, others go to work at hospitals or home care facilities, and some do both at the same time. Starting next year, students who have completed the nursing pathway will be able to move on to the emergency medical responder pathway.
Nickles, a 2013 Mary Persons High School graduate, knew in middle school that she wanted to be a nurse and work with children when she grew up. Her high school counselor suggested that she enroll in the school's nursing pathway to get a head start on her future career. The courses gave her a better perspective on the profession, solidified her career choice and taught her basic skills and information.
When she started nursing school at Central Georgia Technical College, she already had her CNA and a few required courses completed. She worked as a medical technician at Primary Pediatrics while she was in college, and she's been a nurse there for three years now.
Many skilled laborers are retiring, and there are not enough people training in the construction field to fill the void.
"That's just not an area that is attractive to students, but it is a field that is crying," Washington said. "That is a pathway that is in high demand. It's huge in the state of Georgia."
Students in the construction pathway at Hutchings learn skills such as masonry, plumbing, carpentry, electric, design and architecture, as well as business and leadership aspects like construction management, instructor James Miller said. They work in a fully stocked shop, and they leave with a certified construction worker certificate.
Students can earn carpentry certification in Baldwin County's pathway, but they also get a taste of the plumbing and electrical trades, said Natalie Stowe, the district's CTAE director. Putnam County offers welding; Jones County, carpentry; Monroe County, carpentry, electrical, masonry and plumbing; and Houston, furniture making and carpentry, according to the districts.
The students are amazed to be able build things with their hands, and the courses get them excited about the field, Miller said. It shows them that they can be productive by taking up trades.
To address the teacher shortage across the state and nation, some districts are offering education pathways. Baldwin County's pathway focuses on early childhood educators, which are especially in demand, Stowe said. The district has 130 students in the program this year.
Jones County also has a program that focuses on early childhood education, and the Houston and Peach districts offer education pathways too.
Baldwin students learn about developmental phases and nutrition, receive trained in CPR and do student teaching at a learning center, Stowe said. They become certified in early childhood education and could work in a day care. Some students do internships through the district's work-based learning program, and many of them go on to study education in college.
The largest industry in Georgia is agriculture, and one in seven residents is in that line of work, according to the Georgia Farm Bureau. Most Middle Georgia districts have incorporated agriculture education into their curriculum in one way or another.
CTAE programs for high schoolers can focus on agriculture mechanics, plant science, forest science and animal science, and with certification opportunities, students could go directly into the workforce. If students want to continue their education, ag science degree programs are offered in-state at schools including the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
"It's a huge boon business in Georgia," Colwell said. "Our students will have plenty of opportunities to find work in that area."
Some districts have agriculture programs built into their individual schools, including elementary and middle schools. Many schools have greenhouses on their property and students who raise and show animals for Future Farmers of America.
For example, every school in Houston County has an ag program, and all the high schools have farms. Agriculture programs were recently started at Rutland Middle and Rutland High schools in Bibb County, district representatives said. The Monroe County district is in the process of constructing a facility to house livestock.